OXFORDSHIRE'S hospitals have been given a national seal of approval today by being awarded foundation trust status.

The Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust has been granted the higher status which means that it will be more accountable to its patients through a newly appointed board of governors.

Health sector regulator Monitor made its decision last night, but warned that the trust must continue to cut patient waiting times in A&E and for cancer care.

The OUHT, which runs the John Radcliffe, Horton and Churchill hospitals as well as the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, will be renamed the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and will be one 152 foundation trusts across the country.

The decisions means the OUHT will move away from central Government control with a new board of governors being appointed which will meet regularly and hold hospital bosses to account.

It will also allow the trust to be permitted to keep it financial surpluses for investing into new services, to borrow cash and make key decisions on how to improve services to patients.

Trust chief executive Sir Jonathan Michael said the announcement builds on the 'good' Care Quality Commission (CQC) rating the OUHT was awarded last year.

He added: “The work we have done to become a foundation trust has involved a journey of improvement that needed to happen anyway. 

“Becoming a Foundation Trust is recognition of the work we have done to improve the quality and efficiency of our services for patients and the capability we have to continue these improvements.

“It also provides more local accountability through our membership and Council of Governors.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank our fantastic staff for their continued commitment to delivering high quality healthcare for all our patients."

But, although Sir Jonathan retires as chief executive on Sunday, he said the trust is not going to rest on its laurels.

He added: "We recognise that becoming a foundation trust does not in itself solve the challenges facing us or the NHS nationwide.

"We will continue to focus on sustaining delivering safe and high quality care, living within our means and meeting national standards in a very difficult financial climate.”

The decision by Monitor follows a rigorous assessment of OUHT's finances and care.